YourABA: April 2014
YourABA April 2014 Masthead

Are you on the road to your true destination?

All of us are familiar with the feeling that grips you when you’ve become totally engrossed in something and have completely lost track of time. Then, suddenly, something or someone exclaims that all your time for this task is gone, and you realize you’re only halfway through. Usually, you’re not completely satisfied with the result you’ve produced.

In some ways, this is a perfect metaphor for life and the practice of law, wrote Laura A. Calloway, director of the Alabama State Bar’s Practice Management, in the most recent edition of Law Practice magazine.

“When we begin practice, we start out with a big picture in mind — the goals we wish to reach and the dragons we want to slay — using a law license as our most potent weapon,” she said. “But as time goes on and we get ensnared in the day-to-day minutiae of practice, we tend to move into a state that’s a little like being on autopilot. Before we know it, years have flown by, and we’ve been in a trance until something like an illness, the loss of a trusted partner or staffer, or a case that unexpectedly goes in the ditch wakes us up to the passage of time and what we have done, or more importantly, left undone.”

If you’ve been practicing for quite a while and feel that you’ve been “sleepwalking” through practice for the past few years, or if you are just starting and want to make sure that you really do get where you want to go, Calloway suggests some simple steps below.

  1. (Re)define success for yourself.

    Many lawyers equate success in legal practice with financial gain, name recognition among fellow lawyers and the receipt of legal accolades and awards. But reaching these benchmarks often fails to make some lawyers feel happy or successful.

    Take some time to determine what success really looks like to you. “Depending on your own core values, you may experience the greatest feelings of satisfaction and, consequently, success in the practice of law when you are able to help the poor or those whose causes or beliefs place them in the minority,” Calloway said.

    The most important thing, she said, is to periodically take the time to carefully consider what you currently have and what you are spending your days doing, and determine whether you’re still on the road to your true destination.

  2. Make a bucket list.

    Making a written list of the things you wish to accomplish through your law practice can help move you toward accomplishing your goals because it will help you to remember them when the currents of life start to pull you off course. But even more importantly, putting your goals in writing serves as a sort of promise to yourself. It’s a tangible reminder of what you said you wanted and intended to do and whether you have and are continuing to apply the necessary discipline to make sure you achieve those goals.

  3. Keep your eye on the clock.

    Remember to be aware of the passage of time and to take steps to always know where you are on the road throughout your journey. Set aside regular milestones — such as the beginning or end of the year, your birthday or your anniversary date in practice or with your current firm — to take time out to evaluate your bucket list and whether you’re making progress in crossing items off the list and replacing them with new and satisfying challenges.

    “We only get one life, and the quality of yours, when your turn on the merry-go-round is over, depends upon it,” Calloway said.

Law Practice magazine is a publication of the ABA Law Practice Division.

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